Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Did 3000 people die because of fear of the label "domestic spying"?

By Aussiegirl

As the Senate prepares to hold hearings on "domestic spying", here is a thoughtful article from today's New York Post telling us why such spying is vitally important to our survival. The author is Debra Burlingame, a former attorney, and the sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

New York Post Online Edition: postopinion

A 2004 NBC report graphically illustrated what not having this program cost us 41/2 years ago. In 1999, the NSA began monitoring a known al Qaeda "switchboard" in Yemen that relayed calls from Osama bin Laden to operatives all over world. The surveillance picked up the phone number of a "Khalid" in the United States — but the NSA didn't intercept those calls, fearing it would be accused of "domestic spying."

After 9/11, investigators learned that "Khalid" was Khalid al-Mihdhar, then living in San Diego under his own name — one of the hijackers who flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. He made more than a dozen calls to the Yemen house, where his brother-in-law lived.

NBC news called this "one of the missed clues that could have saved 3,000 lives."

[...]In a world where terrorists are trying to use chemical, biological and radiological weapons against us — weapons capable of destroying large areas of cities or infecting massive numbers of people with a deadly virus — shouldn't Congress be more concerned about protecting a program that can stop them, not fighting over who gets to control it?

Some in Congress argue that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is the sole operating authority for any secret eavesdropping. But under FISA, enacted back in the days of 8-track tapes and rotary phones, the procedure for getting a warrant isn't fast enough to catch terrorists using multiple throwaway cellphones and DSL Web connections. Even FISA's 72-hour "emergency bypass" requires a written opinion by NSA lawyers and certification from the attorney general before the intercept can be initiated.

Gen. Hayden and those familiar with the FISA process contend that it is simply too slow for the "hot pursuit" of terrorist communications


At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our lack of control over our secrets has led to many of our intelligence operations being compromised. And the media too often acts as if it's working for the enemy in its relentless quest to uncover our operations in order to boost their sales.

This book "A Man Called Intrepid" is a must read to show how important it was during WWII to develop intelligence networks and keep confidences, a lesson we haven't learned.



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